Taking Smartwool for a run: Gear review

smartwool compression socks and arm warmers in the package

Over the past two weeks, a group of dailymilers on has had the opportunity to test out Smartwool’s new running products, their arm warmers and compression socks.

Reviewers: Thomas N., Peter L., Kathy S., Michelle J., Steve S., Ally S., Samantha G., Heather G., and Caleb M.

Since there were seven of us reviewing the products, we decided to break things down and rank different aspects that we’re interested in as runners. We focused on fit, compression, value, style, warmth, and how often we would use the products. Below is a breakdown with comments from each of us.

Compression socks
Fit: 8
1=loose, 10=true to size
Michelle: “I am saying true to size because when I wore them today they felt just right. Not too tight and not loose at all. Just the way I imagine compression socks to fit and feel.”
Thomas:“The socks felt great the moment I put them on. I am on the cusp of the sizing chart between the Medium size and the Large size. I wear a 10 running shoe but, my foot is a 9.5 and socks fit great. Compared to the Zensah compression socks the foot of the SmartWool sock fit more snug. CW-X Compression socks have the tightest fit in the foot.”
Peter:“The Smartwool compression socks fit me perfectly and were true to size. Wore them for an entire day, including on a run, and never had an issue with them falling down. Fit around the foot was perfect – barely knew I had them on.”
Caleb:“Comfortable throughout – no pinching on the top, very comfy underfoot.”
Kathy:“They were pretty snug, which is what I would expect out of a compression sock. They held their shape really well and didn’t slip down at all during my run. I ordered the small for a size 7 foot and they fit perfectly. ”
Steve:“Men’s medium was an excellent fit! Just snug enough without being over-tight.”
Heather:“I have very small legs, and these compression socks were TIGHT. Almost uncomfortably tight near the knee.”
Samantha:“Perfect fit. I have small feet (size 5-6) and most socks are big on me, but these smalls fit perfectly. No irritation or blisters or anything!”

Compression: 6
1=too loose, 10=too tight
Michelle:“This was my first time running with compression socks. I only ever ran in compressive calf sleeves before. So, I think the compression felt comfortable and as if it was doing it’s “job” without me really noticing. I like that in compression. I know I don’t like the feeling of something too tight and I didn’t get that feeling with these compression socks.”
Thomas:“When not running I felt the sock compression was a fair amount of support and compression. When running I had trouble keeping the socks up. The left one kept slipping down. For this reason I would make these recovery socks not active running socks. Zensah compression socks and CW-X Compresion work well for running CW-X have targeted compression zones and the foot of the CW-X socks also provide aggressive compression.”
Peter:“I tend to prefer tighter compression, and my sense was that although they are very comfortable, the Smartwool socks didn’t provide enough compression for my taste. I also have calf sleeves from both Zensah and Recofit, and both of those offer a tighter fit, which I prefer. The Smartwool socks felt like a mildly tight knee sock that I might wear to work. If you prefer mild compression, these are a good choice.”
Caleb:“Not heavy compression – more of a gentle compression so these socks are probably better for warmup/cooldown runs as opposed to recovery compression by just wearing the socks around the house.”
Kathy:“Didn’t cut off circulation and stayed on – no slipping.”
Heather:“Same as above…I have very small legs, and these compression socks were TIGHT. Almost uncomfortably tight near the knee. But they certainly did their job!”
Samantha:“Felt slightly tighter then the sleeves I usually wear, but in a good way. They were very comfortable to wear and I felt like the compression did it’s job.”

Value: 7
1=poor value, 10=great value
Michelle:“At $37.95 its not any more expensive than any of the other comparable brands out there. I say a good value.”
Thomas:“Seems to be going for the average price for compression socks.”
Peter:“My personal opinion is that most all compression socks/sleeves are overpriced. I find it hard to justify paying half as as much for a pair of socks as it might cost me to buy a pair of shoes that I could wear every day. This isn’t a knock on Smartwool per se, as they are very competitively priced in the compression market.”
Caleb:“My only concern is the material around the ankle area. I tend to “heel whip” and it looks like the impact of my opposite shoe will wear the material down pretty quickly.”
Kathy:“I’m not sure how much they cost for retail, and honestly I’m not sure if I would purchase another pair. I’m not much of a compression sock guru. I would wear them for recovery after a race, but I don’t have enough experience to see a dramatic change.”
Steve:“Seem to be priced in line with other popular brands.”
Heather:“They seem to average around the same price range as most compression socks. I would pay retail value for these socks.”
Samantha:“The price is comparable with other sleeves, but as a pair of socks, they’re very expensive.”

Style: 5
1=grandma socks, 10=very cool!
Michelle:“I dig them.”
Thomas:“This is crazy cause the only sock I wear for skiing is SmartWool. One because they are great ski socks, two because the fun styling jumped out at me when buying them at the ski shop. The compression socks for men came in either black or light battleship gray. I was sent the gray. To me they looked like the color of the socks they give old people to help with circulation problems.”
Peter:“Not much to say here – looks like a plain gray knee sock.”
Kathy:“I wish they were black! The grey isn’t bad, but totally makes me look like a 70s geeky runner (not that all 70s runners were geeky, but I definitely felt more nerdy than usual).”
Heather:“Ha ha ha, grandma socks for sure!”
Samantha:“Not ugly, but not “stylish” per say.”

Warmth: 7
1=too cold, 10=too hot
Kathy:“A little too warm for San Francisco weather, which is usually in the 40s and 50s.”
Caleb:“Great for cold weather!”

How often can you see yourself wearing the socks? 5
1=rarely, 10=daily/every run
Michelle:“I may not wear them every single time I run, but I would certainly wear them if I feel the need for a speedy recovery time after a longer run.”
Thomas:“I will wear the SmartWool as a true recovery sock after my long runs.”
Peter:“I will likely use these socks regularly, though for long runs will probably opt for my calf sleeves.”
Kathy:“I would wear the socks on long international flights, or for recovery after a marathon/long critical race. I might wear them after hard workouts as well; track or tempo long run.”
Heather:“They do feel good post run, tighter than my other compression socks, so while slightly uncomfortable, they seem to work well!”
Samantha:“I can see wearing them a lot in the winter/colder temps, but not so much in the summer. Also, because they’re socks and not sleeves, I would probably wear them once (maybe, maybe twice) and then wash them, so I’d only wear them about once a week.”

Arm warmers
Fit: 9.5
1=loose, 10=true to size
Thomas:“Loved the fit of the arm warmers. I thought the larges would be to large from their measuring instructions so I asked for a medium, they sent me a large and they fit nicely.”
Caleb:“Stayed put very well, no bunching, very even fit throughout the material.”
Peter:“Fit perfectly on my arms. Very comfortable, and just the right amount of arm compression.”
Kathy:“Not too tight (which makes my arms look frumpy), and not too lose (they didn’t slip down).”
Samantha:“They were just a little big in the wrist for me, but otherwise they were a good fit.”

Value: 7
1=poor value, 10=great value
Thomas:“Priced about right for arm sleeves compared to other brands.”
Caleb:“Not as utilitarian as some other brands, because they are heavier and would only be good for cold days, not cool race weather.”
Peter:“They are competitively priced relative to other brands, maybe even a tad cheaper.”
Kathy:“I would definitely wear the arm warmer more than the socks, however I do like running with a jacket on. These would be good for racing when I don’t want to have to deal with a cumbersome jacket.”
Samantha:“Price is comparable with other brands.”

Style: 7
1=grandma warmers, 10=very cool!
Thomas:“I like them. They are a little on the 80s leg warmer side of the tracks, makes it fun.”
Caleb:“Great look to them, very unique – wouldn’t look like everyone else’s arm warmers.”
Peter:“My wife told me they make me look fancy, and not in a good way :) I would have preferred the solid colored gray version rather than the version with the multicolored stripes.”
Kathy:“They’re OK. I wish they were black, but I do like the pattern on them.”
Samantha:“They look like socks that someone cut the feet off of :x Which I’m sure is just that one design!!”
Heather:“LOVED the arm warmers, like a sweater for running! Very cute, I really like them”

Warmth: 7
1=too cold, 10=too hot
Kathy:Pretty warm. I can see these saving me from wearing a jacket on some of the colder races. I do wish I had had them for last year’s CIM when it was 20 degrees at the start! One nice thing about arm armers above a jacket is that you can push them down to your wrists if you get too hot and not have to fuss with taking off a jacket mid race/run.
Samantha:“Honestly, it’s been 25-35 degrees when we got these, so I haven’t wore them outside. It’s just too cold, and they feel too thin to keep me warm with just a tshirt. I guess I could swear them with a tshirt and a long sleeve shirt on top?”

How often can you see yourself wearing the arm warmers? 6
1=rarely, 10=daily/every run
Thomas:“I think in the spring they could be really useful. It is cold enough right now that I am bundling up in jackets and long sleeves.”
Caleb:“Only for a small temperature range for me.”
Peter:“I’ll wear them when they’re not in the wash :)
Kathy:“I think I would wear this when I’m racing, which is about once a month.”

For extra credit, guess who’s legs are in the following photos (let us know who is who witha comment. Choices are Kathy S., Peter L, and Thomas N.):



About Thomas N.

Thomas Neuberger is the founder and editor of Believe in the Run, a website dedicated to reviews on running gear and running events. Thomas has always been a gear head that gets excited by the smell of new eva foam. When he's not working as a marketing consultant for the companies in a venture fund group in Baltimore or spending time with wife and two sons, you can find Thomas on the roads and trails around Baltimore, MD. Big goals this year include a 3:10 marathon, a sub 20 minute 5k, and Completing two ultras.
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